Mockups are an integral part of the design process across various niches, from graphics and web design to product and apparel design. So, whether you’re creating a sweatshirt mockup, PSD web design, or 3D model, mockups will enable you to demonstrate how your creations would appear in real life.
Essentially, mockups function as a bridge between the design concept and the finished product. They help to bring clients or other stakeholders in the project into the design process. In this article, we will discuss the art of using mockups, offering practical tips and insights for how you can use them to elevate your projects several notches higher.
Understanding the purpose of mockups
First, before we get into the meat of the tips, it is crucial that we explain why they are essential. Mockups serve four pivotal purposes.
This is the primary purpose. Mockups help visualize the intended result of the design process.
Mockups are also important for designers working with clients or other kinds of stakeholders because they provide an avenue through which these other stakeholders can quickly offer feedback and suggest changes.
Anyone would agree that this is so much better than going through the entire process, only to have the results thrown out because the other stakeholders are dissatisfied.
Another key purpose of mockups is that they are often used as marketing material to showcase products on websites, billboards, and other advertising media.
Finally, mockups are useful for testing the aesthetic and functionality of design in a real-world context.
10 Tips for Using Mockups in Your Design Process
Now, here are 10 tested and trusted tips to integrate mockups into your design process:
1. Choose the right tools
You should choose the right design software for your mockup development process. These software vary in quality, number of templates available, compatibility, ease of use, and many other factors. You will have to evaluate all options available to you and choose the one best aligned to the needs of your project.
2. Start with high-quality design
It goes without saying that you need a high-quality design as a foundation. Whether it is a logo, a flyer, or just about any other kind of design, it needs to be top quality before it can translate into a top-quality mockup. Also, it would be greatly helpful to start off with high-quality templates; and you can get some of those from Yellow Images.
3. Use realistic environments
Also, it is best practice to place your design in realistic templates when designing mockups. You want to mimic the real-world context as much as possible. A Ferrari designer, for example, would not draw up a design with the Ferrari in rugged terrain but typically would place it on a smooth road, where it can really achieve the top speeds it was designed for.
4. Pay attention to lighting and shadows
Lighting is subtle, but it can make a lot of difference in determining how realistic your mockup will look in a 3D environment. So, you want to mimic how natural light would fall on your design in realistic conditions and the effect that would have on your design. Also, incorporate shadows to create depth.
5. Customize templates
Of course, mockup development software often comes with tons of templates as a starting point. You can also buy a ton of creative templates from online marketplaces like Yellow Images. However, there are no laws preventing you from tweaking these templates to your taste. You can adjust colors, textures, and other design elements to match your vision and brand identity
6. Focus on details
They say the devil is in the details. For designers, it is “true excellence is in the details”. Anyone can draw up anything after only a few minutes of YouTube tutorials. But, only true design professionals know that the success of a mockup lies in its details. Every aspect, from the fonts and colors to the spacing and alignment, needs to be according to plan. At the end of the day, this will be reflected in the quality of the final product.
7. Iterate and test
Mockup designing is not a sprint; it is more of a marathon. It is not a one-and-done process. You need to iterate and test multiple versions of your design on different mockups. You also need to get feedback from other stakeholders in the process, and then use those to refine your design. This way, you can be sure that the final iteration will be the best version possible.
8. Use mockups for user testing
If your project is digital or an interactive design, it will serve you well to use mockups for user testing. And this ties into the previous tip above. You need to create interactive prototypes through which some users or beta testers can navigate the design and test it. This way, you can quickly reveal any issues, and make improvements early on in the design process.
9. Keep your mockups organized
Every designer has some experience with naming files with the suffix “final”, only to have that turn into “final finaaaaal”. Well, this may not exactly help you to improve your mockups. But, it is vital to organize your files systematically. It is not only good for your process but for your overall mental health. Use clear naming conventions.
For example, rather than a suffix with “final”, you can use the date. This way, you automatically know which version is the most recent, based on the date attached to its name. You can also use “WIP” (work in progress) to denote which files you are currently working on.
10. Balance realism and creativity
I know that we have said that you need to use realistic environments. Well, that doesn’t preclude the creative license to inject some fun into your mockups. Get creative with experimenting with different angles and settings to create immersive visuals that can hold your audience’s attention.
Mockups are a powerful tool for testing concepts and saving time in the design process. By understanding the purpose of mockups, choosing the right tools, and following the rest of the tips highlighted in this article, you can begin to create truly outstanding mockups to elevate your design projects and enhance your professional portfolio.